Forget-me-not, Alaska's State Flower

Flowers in Alaska

Flowers in Alaska

All about the Forget-Me-Not - Alaska's State Flower - and other flowers in Alaska

Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis alpestris, Boraginaceae/Borage Family

Cheerful, charming, and the truest of blues, the Alpine forget-me-not is known for its delicate, yet striking beauty. Standing 5-to-12-inches tall, with five petals measuring no more than a third of an inch wide, the Alaska state flower boasts fluorescent blue petals and an ornate yellow and white eye.

Found primarily in high altitude and mountainous regions, forget-me-not flowers grow in Alaska home gardens, walking paths, wet regions, and well into the stretches of the most rocky and rugged terrains. You can find them in clusters during midsummer, blooming throughout the long summer days and becoming more fragrant in the evening.

If you’re looking for the true Alaska state flower, it’s important to note that its relative, Myosotis sylvatica, is a much more common variety than the elusive Alpine forget-me-not, Myosotis alpestris. You may come across many of the sylvatica variety, which bloom in many colors such as pink, blue, white and purple–but you’ll know the alpestris, by its unique sky blue and occasionally, rare white petals.

Alaska Forget-me-not

The Alaska State Flower

The forget-me-not has been the official Alaska state flower since 1917–well before Alaska entered the Union as the 49th state, in 1959. In the early 20th century, pioneer groups ranging from Nome to Sitka formed a civic organization that would be known as the “Grand Igloo.” Representing a vast group of pioneers in Alaska, the Grand Igloo chose the forget-me-not as the symbol of constancy and perseverance – the all-encompassing embodiment of the pioneer spirit. The flower is so significant to state history that the Alaska state flag incorporates the forget-me-not color in its blue backdrop. The flag showcases the North Star, which represents the northernmost state in the union, as well as the big dipper and Great Bear, which symbolize strength.

The Forget-Me-Not Meaning

The significance of the forget-me-not varies by culture, but it is widely synonymous with true love, respect, fidelity, faithfulness, peace, healing, growth, intelligence, and power. Myosotis (the genus of the forget-me-not) is Greek for “mouse ear,” named after its small and shy appearance. The phrase “forget-me-not” is the English translation of the French name for the flower: ne m’oubliez, meaning “don’t forget me."

Alaskans and the Forget-Me-Not

You will notice that the Alaska state flower, as well as many other local flowers, have a place in the beadwork of many Alaska Native artworks. Traditionally using pieces of stone or shell, and now modern beads, the image of the Alpine forget-me-not can be seen sewn into tunics, regalias, parkas, moccasins, mittens, jewelry, and spiritual items. To learn more about traditional Alaska Native uses of herbs and flowers, click here.

Many Alaskans have a unique relationship with forget-me-nots. While some see it as a coveted addition to a home garden, others view it (in particular, the sylvatica variety) as a pest to never be planted. Regardless of your preference, the best time to plant forget-me-nots is in early spring through August months. They are best planted by seed, over rich soil which gets plenty of sunlight. Seeds for the forget-me-not can be found throughout the state at most gardening centers and greenhouses.

Other Notable Flowers in Alaska

In addition to the Alpine forget-me-not, here is a list of other unique flowers you’ll find in Alaska:

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

Fireweed is often referred to by Alaskans as the “unofficial state flower” and is aptly named as it is typically the first plant to grow after a fire. Standing 1-to-9-feet tall, it is a vibrant pinkish-purple and is often used to make honey or jelly. You can find it across landscapes in spring and summer, but as the saying goes, “when fireweed turns to cotton, summer will soon be forgotten.”

Fireweed in Alaska

Lupine (Lupinus nootkatensis, Leguminosae/Pea Family)

The lupine flower is prevalent in the Interior, Southcentral, and Southeast regions of Alaska, in both tundra and alpine areas, between June and September. It is 1-to-3-feet tall with hairy stems and five to nine beautiful, violet leaflets that spring from its stem. The plant and seed pods are poisonous and can be found along roadsides, meadows, mountainous regions, and gravel bars.

Lupine in Alaska

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum)

Standing 5-to-9-feet tall, the cow parsnip plant has a large green stem and white maple-leaf shaped blooms that are grouped in threes. The juice from the plant can cause blistering on the skin when exposed to sunlight so be sure to wash off exposed areas with soap quickly. You’ll find it on hiking trails, woodlands, and in moist fields.

Cow parsnip Alaska
Photo Credit: @aven.kane

Monkshood (Aconitum delphinifolium, Ranuculaceae/Buttercup Family)

All parts of this flower are poisonous, with its genus Aconitum Latin for “poisonous plant.” Monkshood is the most poisonous plant native to North America. Its dark blue and purple flowers are shaped like a hooded monk, and can be found in woodlands, mid-alpine areas, and meadows June through August.

Monkshood flower

Alaskan Bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis, Cornaceae/Dogwood Family)

This small, white, four-petal flower can be found in moist forests, under shrubs and at the edges of bogs. They produce bright red berries which are edible. Many Indigenous cultures in the Northern Hemisphere enjoy them raw, with eulachon fish grease and sugar. 

Alaskan bunchberry
Photo Credit: @hoflinn

Alaska Bell/Moss Heather (Harrimanella stelleriana)

This mat-forming dwarf evergreen shrub has beautiful white, bell-shaped flowers with a red exterior center in four stacking rows. You can find it on cliff edges, alpine tundra, and rocky mountain slopes.

Sitka Rose (Rosa rugosa)

This shrub produces beautiful pink and white blooms, and comes in three native Rosa species varieties: prickly rose, found in Southcentral Alaska; Nootka rose or Sitka rose, found in Southeast Alaska; and Woods’ rose, which can be found in the Interior region.

Sitka Rose in Alaska

Bluebells of Scotland (Campanula rotundifolia, Campanulaceae/Bluebell Family)

This Alaska favorite can be found on cliffs, mountain slopes, tundra, and coastal meadows. Its nodding bell shape is complemented by ombre hues of pink, purple, and blue.

Whether your travels take you on scenic drives, to vast woodlands, awe-inspiring coastal areas, or to the many, epic hiking trails of Alaska, you’ll be sure to see these spectacular and unique flowers wherever the road may take you.


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